Friday, January 26, 2007

US Attorney Hanky Panky--Take Two

Fallout continues regarding the forced replacement of US Attorney's by the Bush Administration and the curious relationship between the characteristics of the attorneys ousted and those of their replacements. This Talking Points Memo asks the question, "Now, why would Karl Rove want his top oppo researcher being the US Attorney in Arkansas for the next two years?"

Why, indeed.

Further, Arkansas Attorney John Wesley Hall Jr has filed a 16 page motion declaring that Griffin's appointment was unconstitutional. For those not interested in deciphering all 16 pages, the following is considered the gist of the thing:

An example [of how the Attorney General could use the new law to circumvent Senate confirmation], one that might be called extreme but is not the slightest bit implausible, is this: The President appoints a qualified “strawman” (or woman) as a United States Attorney that the President knows will be confirmed by the Senate at the beginning of the President’s term of office. The Senate advises and consents to the appointment, and the U.S. Attorney is sworn in. Shortly after that, the Attorney General removes the U.S. Attorney and appoints a replacement who never has to face the Senate, and it turns out that the replacement U.S. Attorney is inexperienced or unqualified for the job or a blatantly political appointment that no one can understand would qualify as “the principal federal law enforcement officers in their judicial districts.” Conceivably, under the Attorney General’s interpretation of his appointment power in § 546(c), an incompetent or a blatantly politically appointed* U.S. Attorney could hold office like this for seven and a half years, or even longer, assuming the President is re-elected, without ever facing Senate confirmation over his or her qualifications.

Thanks to the elections last fall, the democrats are in the position to dig into this thing, and they are. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is slated to lead a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 7 on the topic of "Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?" No witnesses have been announced.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) bill to fix the loophole allowing administration appointees to U.S. attorney spots to serve indefinitely could see some action. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee panel, expressed "qualified support" for the measure and asked to work with Feinstein on it, according to his spokeswoman, Courtney Boone.

6 Comments:

Blogger Framer said...

So I take it you were equally outraged when Bill Clinton fired EVERY US Attorney save one upon taking office in 1993?

Andrew McCarthy (with whom I don't always agree,) has the other side of this issue

It's politics, but not near as sinister as Ms. Feinstein would have you believe.

1/27/2007 10:07 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Framer,

Good to hear from you, and excellent remark. Good link, by the way.

I would assert that we are seeing the backlash, and it will continue, against the six years of F yourself politics practiced by the Bush Administration with its GOP Congress majority that told the democrats to pound salt.

Washington behavior from 2000 to 2006 was unconscionable and arrogant, and don't even get me started on the obscene and unprecedented corruption that Satan Cheney and his pals Delay and company perpetrated.

Yes, this is backlash and a preview of coming attractions. As I posted many, many months ago, the pendulum swings.

Bush and Cheney have REALLY pushed that pendulum. It's starting to swing back, and it ain't whistling dixie.

1/28/2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Just for fun I googled Satan Cheney and got 839,000 hits. Who would have thought you could get "political" bumper stickers and T-shirts that say "Cheney/Satan 08"?

1/28/2007 11:44 AM  
Blogger sirocco said...

Framer,

As a counterpoint, there is nothing particularly unusual about a new administration replacing the US Attorneys upon entering office. It's very typical for a large turnover when that happens, with most of the new attorneys remaining in office until a new administration comes in (4 or 8 years).

What makes this unusual isn't so much the amount of turnover, it's the amount of turnover occuring NOT at the start of a new administration, but six years in which makes it (apparently) unprecedented.

1/29/2007 12:12 PM  
Blogger Framer said...

Or, conversely, one ecould argue that it might be fair, or less burdensome to the legal system, to not replace EVERY US attourney at the same time. Perhaps there just may be a few, if not most who are doing a good job and should remain in place. I would argue that replacing them on a piecemeal basis, after some measure of review is far more responsible and sensible.

George Bush has given these attorneys far more leeway and fairness than Clinton did to his attorneys. It seems kind of disingenuous to use this overlooked act of bipartisanship as a club to beat him with now. The fact that some of these attorneys were even serving at this point was the exception, not the rule.

1/30/2007 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Sirocco said...

Framer,

I am not sure of the basis of your claim "George Bush has given these attorneys far more leeway and fairness than Clinton did to his attorneys."

I'm also uncertain what "overlooked act of bipartisanship" you are talking about, as all these individuals were initially appointed by Bush (and approved by the Senate).

What I do know is this:

1. I have seen references to "at least seven" attorneys being forced out. With a little digging I dredeged up six names:

Carole Lam, CA
Bud Cummins, AR
Kevin Ryan, CA
Daniel Bogden, NV
David Iglesias, NM
Paul Charlton, AZ (who's office is overseeing the Renzi investigation).

A common thread? All six have been actively involved investigating cases of corruption involving current or former Republican officials (or, in the case of Iglesias, recently concluded such cases).

Lam, in particular, is particulalry noteworthy due to her office's ongoing investigation of corruption related to Duke Cunningham.

2. It's usual to have some turnover on a year-by-year basis during an adminsitration (people burn out, leave for personal reasons or private jobs, etc.), but this degree is, at minimum, unusual.

3. The President is taking advantage of a clause in the Patriot Act to replace these attorneys with individuals who are NOT subject to Senate approval (not something any prior administration has been able to do).

At least one of these appointees (Tim Griffin, named to replace Cummins) has no notable qualifications for the position, other than a certain ideological background.


All told, that's enough smoke to be suspicious.

____


It's been noted elsewhere there is serious potential for abuse here.

For example, a President (either current or future) could potentially nominate a slate of attorneya who would fairly easily pass Senate review initially, then make use of this clause to fire (or force the resignation of, perhaps as part of a pre-arranged deal) said attorneys, replace them with whomever he wishes, and not have any of the replacements subject to review.

1/30/2007 2:22 PM  

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